Iowa State to lead training effort to promote ag biotech innovation and seed systems in the Philippines

Antipolo City, Philippines -  A farmer plants lettuce sprouts at a vegetable farm.AMES, Iowa – Iowa State University’s Seed Science Center (ISU-SSC) will roll out a training program this year to develop seed systems and spur agricultural biotechnology applications in the Philippines.

         Sponsored by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service (USDA-FAS), the training program is aimed at enhancing the capacity of Filipino scientists, policymakers, senior technical officers, and middle-level managers of national seed and biotech authorities. Participants are expected to spearhead the incorporation of biotech and innovative breeding techniques into seed sector improvement initiatives, such as ensuring the availability of high-quality seeds to small-scale producers. The training program also will serve as a venue for the two countries to share ways by which plant and animal biotech can advance food security, and identify trade policies that ensure farmers’ access to biotech innovations and improved seeds.

         “Our training effort will provide more impetus for the Philippines to cement its status as a regional biotechnology leader, having been the first Asian country to allow the planting of a genetically engineered crop (Bt corn) in 2003. It is now moving

                                                                                                                                   Antipolo City, Philippines: a farmer plants lettuce sprouts at a vegetable farm.

forward on a regulatory framework for GE animals and other products of innovative biotechnologies,” said Manjit Misra, SSC Director. The Philippines demonstrated such regional leadership when it became the first in Asia to co-sponsor the International Statement on Agricultural Applications of Precision Biotechnology at the World Trade Organization in 2020. It is also the first country to approve the commercial production of genetically modified golden rice. This summer, the Philippines approved Bt eggplant for use as food, feed, and for processing. “We would like the country to maintain its momentum,” Misra added.

         Misra notes the urgent need for trained executives who will drive seed policy development and reforms in biotechnology research and development in Southeast Asia. “We also need scientists and researchers with a strong grasp of the role of biotechnology innovations in advancing seed production and trade. Prioritizing such a need recognizes that any effort to stave off food insecurity and malnutrition, two grand challenges of our time, begins with quality seeds,” Misra explained. 

         The Center will coordinate a pool of researchers and scientists at Iowa State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences as well as external experts on the science and policy applied to plant and animal biotech innovations—from development to commercialization—and seed systems development. Efforts to formulate a curriculum for the training program began this Spring for the launching of the training’s online component in October 2021. The program’s in-person training aspect, to be conducted on the ISU campus in Ames, Iowa, is scheduled in 2022.  

         “Our trainees’ increased capacities to manage and conduct research and development initiatives, as well as drive and implement critical policy reforms, will consequently foster conditions that buttress food security in the Philippines and Southeast Asia,” said Lulu Rodriguez, SSC Global Programs Leader. “These include a vibrant seed sector able to produce quality seeds and make them available to small-scale farmers, biotech products to feed and nourish growing populations while sustaining the environment, and enhanced trade capacity.”

         “The SSC has an extensive history of global engagement and experience in this type of collaborative work,” Rodriguez said. “We have footprint in more than 80 countries over the past 20 years, helping to expand producers’ access to quality seed, facilitate seed trade, and promote the growth of national seed industries.”